Backlash voiced by a wide swath of US politicians including Democrats in Congress, some Republicans, church leaders.
President Donald Trump’s hardline stance against protests rocking the United States and threats to call out the military to quell unrest in American cities are drawing criticism from a wide swath of US leaders and have sparked a backlash among Democrats in Congress and even some Republicans.
In nationally televised remarks at the White House on Monday, Trump called the protests “acts of domestic terror” committed by “professional anarchists, violent mobs, arsonists, looters, criminals, rioters, Antifa and others”.
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As the president was speaking on Monday, federal police in riot gear and on horseback using chemical gas and flashbangs then cleared Lafayette Park, a city square of grass and trees that has been the epicentre of the protests in Washington, DC.
Trump’s words and police actions in Lafayette Park have been widely condemned and opened a schism among US leaders over how best to handle the protests, looting and violence that have swept the nation.
Senator Ron Wyden, a Democrat, tweeted that Trump’s “Fascist speech … verged on a declaration of war against American citizens.”
The Reverend Mariann Budde, the Episcopal bishop of Washington, DC, said she was outraged that “they would be clearing with tear gas so they could use one of our churches as a prop”.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi condemned the police action in Lafayette Park.
“Yesterday, we saw a most unfortunate situation where, before the time of the curfew occurred, peaceful demonstrators in front of, protesters in front of the White House were beaten,” Pelosi said in a statement at the US Capitol on Tuesday. “That has no place and it’s time for us to do away with that.”
Trump is getting negative ratings from 49 percent of Americans for his response to the protests and events in Minneapolis, according to the latest poll by CBSNews and YouGov. Thirty-two percent approved of Trump’s handling of the crisis, according to the survey of more than 2,000 US residents conducted May 29 to June 1.
White House spokeswoman Kellyanne Conway, speaking to reporters at the White House on Tuesday, dismissed the complaints about the tone of Trump’s remarks during the crisis as “opinion”.
Conway said calling Trump’s actions at Lafayette Park a “photo op” amounted to second-guessing the president’s motives with a childish “Sesame Street word of the day”.
Conway also said no decision had been made yet by Trump to call out the military, as he had threatened to do on Monday.
Appearing at another church on Tuesday, Trump and First Lady Melania Trump laid a wreath at the Saint John Paul II National Shrine, a Catholic community centre in Washington, DC.
The archbishop of Catholic Diocese of Washington, DC, Wilton Gregory issued a statement condemning the president’s visit as “baffling and reprehensible” in light of the actions by police the prior day to use “tear gas and other deterrents to silence, scatter or intimidate” protesters.
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